Originally created 08/29/98

Brooks finds perfect way to spend retirement



ATLANTA -- The phone rings constantly, but Butch Brooks seems prepared for every call.

Rosters chocked with tidbits of information on each player lie next to books filled with coaches' numbers. The reference information appears endless.

He tells you it's work. But from the look on his face to the way his conversations invariably drift to any topic and inevitably produce swelling laughter, the theory's a hard sell.

And then he just plain admits it.

"I'm like a dang six-year-old kid in a candy shop," Brooks says as he ignores one of the incoming calls.

This is retirement for the 52-year-old Brooks. Thirty years of high school coaching, including the last 17 at Washington-Wilkes, ended in June, when Brooks took early retirement.

But he didn't remain unemployed for long.

It took Brooks just a couple weeks to begin the newly-created position of Director of High School Relations at Georgia Tech.

The position entails exactly what it infers. He spends most days on the phone, talking with high school coaches and arranging trips to campus for their players.

Coming from the other side, Brooks fits the job ideally.

"I think I know what (coaches) want to hear," Brooks said. "I know when to call them and when not to call them. And it lets them know that someone's here, they're not just getting Voice Mail."

He plays host and tour guide when the players arrive on campus. But he still struggles with his coaching instincts when he takes players to Bobby Dodd Stadium.

"It's hard on him right now," Tech coach George O'Leary said, "because he's been a coach all his life. He's on the sidelines showing people around, and he's talking here but watching the field all the time to see what's going on."

"Sometimes I want to holler a few times," Brooks said. "But then I think maybe that's why I had so many heart problems. So I just lay back and let it go."

Of course, not everything's perfect. He'd love to spend Friday nights trolling the field at Washington-Wilkes, soaking in the atmosphere he experienced and fostered for nearly two decades.

But NCAA rules prevent essentially prevent him from returning. Each time he steps foot on a high school campus, it counts against Tech's permitted school visits.

"It's really unfortunate," said Brooks, who still owns a 100-acre farm in Washington County. "I'd love to back, but they made it clear right away to me."

He had a few opportunities to jump to college in the past. Valdosta State wanted him as its head football coach. A couple of years later, Middle Georgia College offered a similar opportunity.

But he felt a fondness and a loyalty to Washington-Wilkes.

"A man's only as good as his word," Brooks said. "That's what I always tell my kids, and I felt I was obligated to Washington, so I stayed with them."

After the Middle Georgia offer, he essentially paid no attention to jumping to college.

"But this was just one of those things you couldn't pass up," Brooks said. "You know you don't get too many offers to move to Division I."

And what a difference. At Washington Wilkes, he generally wore the same clothes to practice throughout the week, then washed them on the weekend. Now he's got them cleaned and back in his locker by the following morning.

He's handing out business cards like they're candy, because he's never had any before.

"I'm not used to having one pair of coaching shoes," Brooks said. "Now I've got so many pairs, I don't know which ones to wear everyday.

"They've spoiled me."